Nfld. & Labrador

After 15 'alarming' deaths so far this year, RCMP launches ATV safety campaign

In the midst of a deadly year on ATV trails across Newfoundland and Labrador, the RCMP has launched a bigger push to curb what it says is reckless behaviour.

ATV group calls for larger fines, impounding vehicles of reckless drivers

There have been 15 ATV-related deaths in Newfoundland and Labrador since Jan. 1. (CBC)

In the midst of a deadly year on ATV trails across Newfoundland and Labrador, the RCMP has launched a bigger push to curb what it says is reckless behaviour, a move being met with acclaim from some ATV riders in the province.

Fifteen people have died while operating ATVs and snowmobiles in areas policed by the RCMP across the province since Jan. 1. There were 12 ATV-related deaths in 2019 and 10 in 2018.

In 11 of the deaths this year, safety equipment, such as helmets and seatbelts, were either not worn or improperly used. Alcohol use was a suspected factor in 10 of the deaths, according to an RCMP media release. 

"I find these numbers personally alarming," Assistant Commissioner Ches Parsons, commanding officer of the RCMP in Newfoundland and Labrador, told reporters Monday. He called the casualty rate "extreme."

Dean Layman of Avalon ATV said it's about one in 10 riders who don't follow the rules, and with his group the rules are plain and simple: no helmet, no ride. 

"Enforcement is good if they get the, I call them idiots, off the road," Layman said Monday evening, shortly after the RCMP launched its enforcement and social media campaign in response to the high number ATV-related deaths across the province this year.

"People who go out and plan to destroy stuff and hurt people, and don't care … that's the issue I have."

Laymen said he often rides with RCMP and RNC officers, and there's never an issue when they're on the trail. 

Dean Layman, the founder of Avalon ATV, says someone who wants to ride with his group has to wear a helmet. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

Covert surveillance

The RCMP's campaign, launched Monday, plans to increase enforcement of existing ATV laws. Officers will target speeding, use of safety equipment, underage drivers and alcohol use.

The RCMP plan to use special tactics, including plainclothes officers and vehicles that are hard to identify as police, to allow covert surveillance and to gather evidence, in collaboration with its varying detachments, to support any charges laid. 

"The undeniable fact of death and tragedy is there. In my personal experience I've had ATVs flee from me, and in many cases the operator saw it as a joke," said RCMP Sgt. Matthew Christie, the commander of the force's traffic services east unit.

"I can assure you when I knock on a door and tell someone their loved one has been killed, it's no joke."

WATCH | Find out why the RCMP in N.L. are aiming for the heart in a new safety campaign: 

Spike in ATV-related deaths is 'alarming,' Mounties say

CBC News Newfoundland

5 months ago
2:43
Jeremy Eaton reports on a new RCMP campaign aimed at halting what a senior officer calls a disturbing casualty rate 2:43

On top of those efforts, the RCMP is also launching a social media campaign called ATV Safety Can Save More Than One Life.

The campaign will run for three months. It's designed to make an emotional impact by focusing on the devastation to the loved ones left behind in the wake of ATV deaths, as well as the causes of those deaths, according to the RCMP.

The campaign will use visuals and simple messages in an effort to get more people talking about safe recreational vehicle use.

These are some of the ads in the RCMP's social media campaign about responsible ATV use, which will run for the next three months. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

As he headed out riding with his group, Layman said he wants to see officers on the trails themselves, and stricter fines for those caught breaking the law. 

"The [RCMP] or the RNC need to get on the trails and just get out and take a look," he said.

"Put a bigger fine out. No helmet, take a picture, then you got proof. Then give them a fine, take his bike from him for 24 to 48 hours … and you can't get it back until you pay the fine."

Under the Motorized Snow Vehicles and All-Terrain Vehicles Act:

  • It is illegal to operate an ATV on a highway except to cross from one side of the road to another, and in that case the operator must have a valid drivers licence, insurance and registration to do so and 100 yards of visibility.
  • All occupants of an ATV must be wearing an approved helmet.
  • It is illegal to operate an ATV while under the influence or alcohol or narcotics.
  • A person must be 16 years old to operate an adult-sized ATV of over 90 cubic centimetres.
  • A person who is 14-15 years old can operate an ATV under 90 cubic centimetres but only when being supervised by a person who is 19 years old or older.
  • A person under 14 years old is not permitted to operate an ATV of any size.
  • A person who permits an underage child to operate an ATV without supervision can be charged for doing so.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Jeremy Eaton and Mike Moore

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